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Of the Monk’s Girdle.
As we are going to speak of the customs and rules of the monasteries, how by God’s grace can we better begin than with the actual dress of the monks, for we shall then be able to expound in due course their interior life when we have set their outward man before your eyes. A monk, then, as a soldier of Christ ever ready for battle, ought always to walk with his loins girded. For in this fashion, too, the authority of Holy Scripture shows that they walked who in the Old Testament started the original of this life,—I mean Elijah and Elisha; and, moreover, we know that the leaders and authors of the New Testament, viz., John, Peter, and Paul, and the others of the same rank, walked in the same manner. And of these the first-mentioned, who even in the Old Testament displayed the flowers of a virgin life and an example of chastity and continence, when he had been sent by the Lord to rebuke the messengers of Ahaziah, the wicked king of Israel, because when confined by sickness he had intended to consult Beelzebub, the god of Ekron, on the state of his health, and thereupon the said prophet had met them and said that he should not come down from the bed on which he lay,—this man was made known to the bed-ridden king by the description of the character of his clothing. For when the messengers returned to him and brought back the prophet’s message, he asked what the man who had met them and spoken such words was like and how he was dressed. “An hairy man,” they said, “and girt with a girdle of leather about his loins;” and by this dress the king at once saw that it was the man of God, and said: “It is Elijah the Tishbite:”638